Whether Christian or not, everyone has noticed the cultural shift — marriage is undoubtedly on a steady decline. Not only that, but the idea of what constitutes a normal relationship continues to shift. Relationships between man and woman have given way to man and man or woman and woman. With the spread of gender theory, there are people claiming to be neither man or woman. Then we have relationships that include multiple people, known as polyamory.
Without a doubt, all the ideas contradicting God’s design for marriage are against the Christian belief, and therefore against God’s will. Still, the new trends for relationships are gaining traction and popularity, polyamory being one of them.
Before we can figure out what we as Christians say about polyamorous relationships, we have to consult what God says in His Word. But first of all, what is polyamory?
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Alexmia
What Is Polyamory?
If you break down this word, the prefix poly- means “many,” and the word amor means “love.” Thus, we end up with a word that means “many loves” when translated. Many of us can attest to loving multiple people, and even falling in love more than once. Polyamory does not mean loving various people, like family or friends. Nor does polyamory mean loving one person, while having a secret lover on the side.
Polyamory is having a consensual relationship with multiple parties simultaneously. Instead of their being two lovers, a man and a woman, there are three or more lovers involved in the same relationship.
What then is the difference between polyamory and polygamy?
Polygamy is the practice of marrying multiple partners. Polyamory is simply being in a relationship with multiple people. The relationship may include finances, emotions, and physicality, but is always more romantic than a friendship. Friends don’t get married, lovers do.
God’s Design for Marriage
“Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” (Ephesians 5:24-25)
However archaic this verse may read to today’s world, there’s a reason God emphasizes marriage between husband and wife. He designed woman from man and for him (Genesis 2:22). From the very beginning, both were meant to support one another under the direction of God. The reason modern day culture clashes so much with traditional marriage is because of the disagreement with God’s fundamental design for these special relationships. Too many people today engage in relationships not to serve God or others, but rather themselves.
Thus, instead of seeking to fulfill the outline of what God says an ideal relationship contains, people bring into relationships their own personal tastes and proclivities.
However, Scripture is clear about the purpose of marriage. Marriage is the solidified union between man and woman where they can procreate and enjoy sexual pleasures. Marriage is a statement two people make privately to one another, but is also a public announcement before other people. Moreover, marriage is a promise made before God. Husbands and wives are called to submit to one another in the ways God has ordained.
God does not call people into marriage as a way of simply pleasing themselves. We know this with certainty because Jesus outlined the two most important commandments (Matthew 22: 34-40). Loving others requires us to make sacrifices for ourselves and put them before ourselves. While we all have needs, God calls us to love. He wants us to give the same love He has given us.
Now that we understand polyamory, and how that differs from God’s design for Christian relationships, let’s discern how we can respond to this new-age way of thinking.
How Do We Respond?
“What they say.”
How we respond.
“Marriage is just a piece of paper.”
Do you know the origin of marriage?
Do you understand how marriage has functioned throughout human history?
Marriage is the sacred covenant between man and woman, a promise to live life together made before God. Marriage is therefore not just a piece of paper, but a private, public, and divine statement.
“Relationships are all about personal fulfillment!”
If this were true, then every relationship we have, whether with family, friends, or otherwise, would exist solely to serve us. If you tell them how you view the relationship, how do you believe they will respond?
Would you want someone interacting with you only for personal gain?
“Marriage is old-fashioned.”
Not everything stands the test of time. Marriage has lasted as an institution within Christianity, other faiths, and the world as a whole. Why would that be?
Not every new idea or invention serves to further humanity. Are relationships any better today than during a time where marriage was the norm?
“Polyamory allows me to get more of my needs fulfilled.” or “I love my partners equally.”
Having multiple partners definitely offers multiple sources for emotional support and physicality. However, having multiple sources naturally leads us to draw comparisons between people. Consider those growing up in a two-parent household. Oftentimes, children decide for themselves who’s less strict and a better listener. The same distinctions are made between lovers because our human nature leads us to categorize.
“I learn more and faster through having multiple relationships at once.”
If polyamory teaches you more at once, then surely your patience is also tried twice as much, there is twice as much conflict, twice as many reasons to disagree, etc. Relationships require time and effort, and having multiple relationships doesn’t simply rejuvenate anyone’s energy, nor are they granted extra time in life.
“My children are better taken care of because the third parent lives at home.”
The expression “It takes a village to raise a child,” does not mean every adult is a parent. The expression means parents and neighbors play a role in helping foster a child’s growth. Children learn authority first and foremost through the relationships with their parents. Which parent is in charge? What does a child do if all three parents disagree?
Children today often bear witness to divorces and breakups. Living in a polyamorous household will naturally lead them to witnessing even more of this sorrow.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
People are not wrong to want their needs fulfilled, but as Christians we know that we are not the priority. Quite the opposite.
When we enter into marriage, we do hope to be satisfied, and yes, we want someone who cares to satisfy our needs. However, if that is our only basis for marriage, the relationship will fail. At some point our partner will let us down, and we may go through seasons where they don’t satisfy our needs. This could happen after a death in the family, them being busy with a new job, or adding a child to the family.
We are not the reason we get married. The other person is the reason.
There are groups and individuals who are fine with doing away with the nuclear family. Divorce is common, marriage is pointless, and love is love, some say, but do we accept this? We can set the standard for marriage, and how healthy relationships ought to look. Let’s not expect the world to teach us about marriage, and instead be the teachers.
Marriage is meant to bring two people together, not for their personal fulfillment, but for fulfilling one another, and moreover, pleasing God. We need marriage in society because we need God, and a gracious reminder of his intentions for us, and his covenant with us. He has shown us how to love, and with that teaching we can learn to love one another.
“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Motortion
Aaron Brown is a freelance writer, dance teacher, and visual artist. He currently contributes articles to GodUpdates, GodTube, iBelieve, and Crosswalk. Aaron also supports clients through the freelance platform Upwork.